Jay Leno remained hospitalized on Friday after undergoing surgery following a gasoline accident that resulted in severe burns to his face and hands.
The injury occurred after a gasoline fire broke out in the legendary comedian and ‘Tonight Show’ host’s garage over the weekend. While working on his car, a clogged fuel line opened, spraying fuel in his face and a nearby spark ignited the gasoline.
Leno underwent excision and graft surgery for second and third degree burns and was due to undergo another procedure this week.
In a statement earlier this week, Leno said he needed “a week or two” to get back on his feet. But on Wednesday, Dr. Peter Grossman, medical director of the Grossman Burn Center, said Leno “realizes he may have to take it a little slower than he originally thought.”
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For now, Leno is undergoing “very aggressive” hyperbaric oxygen therapy, Grossman said.
So what is therapy and how does treatment work?
What is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy, also known as HBOT, is a treatment that decreases swelling and keeps bacteria away. The treatment, given in a special hyperbaric chamber, is done to speed the healing of wounds that are resistant to healing and fight infection, according to John Hopkins.
“High oxygen levels kill bacteria, promote the growth of new blood vessels and increase growth factors: all creating an ideal environment for skin healing,” said Dr. Martin O’Malley, Medical Director of MDHyperbaric in New York. TODAY Friday.
HBOT is also a well-established treatment for carbon monoxide poisoning, gangrene and decompression sickness, a potential risk of scuba diving.
How does oxygen therapy work?
A patient is treated in a hyperbaric oxygen therapy chamber, where atmospheric pressure is raised two to three times higher than normal atmospheric pressure, according to the Mayo Clinic. This allows a patient’s lungs to pick up significantly more oxygen, which helps fight bacteria.
Injured tissues need more oxygen to survive. The extra oxygen provided by the treatment is intended to trigger the release of growth factors and stem cells to promote healing, according to Mayo.
The Mayo Clinic researchers said the therapy also increases the amount of oxygen a person’s blood can carry. “With repeated treatments, the temporary supplemental oxygen levels promote normal tissue oxygen levels even after therapy ends,” according to Mayo Clinic patient information on the treatment.
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What does HBO do for burns?
The goals of treating thermal burns are to minimize edema (swelling caused by excess fluid trapped in the tissues of your body), maintain tissue viability, protect the microvasculature (the tiny system of blood vessels in the body tissues) and enhance the host’s defenses to fight off infection, said O’Malley, who is also the Brooklyn Nets’ team orthopedic surgeon, team physician for USA Basketball and the athletics at Iona University, as well as the foot and ankle consultant for the New York Giants and New York City Ballet.
“HBOT addresses these concerns by reducing edema, decreasing fluid requirements, preserving dermal structures with improved vascularity, and increasing immune response,” he said. “These physiological benefits of pressurized oxygen demonstrate improved wound healing, decreased mortality, reduced hospital stay, and decreased need for surgery in heat burn patients.”
How often is it needed?
Treatment should begin as soon as possible after a thermal burn, O’Malley said.
Three treatments are suggested in the first 24 hours and twice a day thereafter. Sessions last 90 minutes and should be continued for 20-30 sessions.
However, he said, the number of treatments depends on the clinical extent of the injury and the response to treatment.
What other conditions does it treat?
HBOT is also used for wound healing in patients after surgery, as well as those with autoimmune disorders and Long COVID, O’Malley said.
“This therapy has been around for decades and the original benefits for heat burn patients were seen in 1965 when it was observed to heal second degree burns faster in a group of miners from coal that were treated for carbon monoxide,” he said.
Health care providers may also suggest hyperbaric oxygen therapy for the following conditions:
- Severe anemia.
- brain abscess.
- Air bubbles in your blood vessels, known as an arterial gas embolism.
- Carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Crush injury.
- Deafness, sudden.
- Decompression sickness.
- Infection of the skin or bones leading to tissue death.
- Wounds that do not heal, such as a diabetic foot ulcer.
- Radiation injury.
- Traumatic brain injury.
- Loss of vision, sudden and painless.
Natalie Neysa Alund covers trending news for USA TODAY. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @nataliealund.
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